Bach’s Six Sonatas & Partitas

December 9, 2013

J.S. Bach’s “Six Sonatas and Partitas” are a staple in any violinist’s repertoire and a must have for almost every audition. This collection, like many of Bach’s popular repertoire, has a story (or legend) behind it; such as the story of Bach’s first wife passing away while he was on a trip with the Prince of Kothen and writing the famously heart-wrenching Chaconne (or ciaccona) in D minor in remembrance of his wife.

When it comes to purchasing a score for these pieces there are many choices and each with their own strengths and weaknesses. This post reviews the features of those editions The Leading Note keeps in stock.

Barenreiter Verlag

First off we have the Bärenreiter Urtext Edition. This publication draws on nine different sources to create an authentic, reliable edition that closely resembles what Bach wrote. It has no editorial fingerings and includes only the bowings that are in the various sources. The print is fairly large and very clean making it very easy to read.


There is also a nice amount of space between the lines to add your desired fingerings and bowings. This edition has a very nice foreword which explains where each source is from and how each was used by the editors. My only wish is that they would have also attached a Facsimile with this edition to allow for personal comparison.


Next up is the Henle edition. This publication comes in two parts; each is bound separately without card cover. A slipcover made of cardstock is included to house both separate books. The first part of this edition is an urtext version of the “autograph” score and the second part is an edition with fingerings and bowings done by Wolfgang Scheiderhan and edited by Klaus Rönnau.


Like the Bärenreiter, everything is laid out with lots of space to add or change fingerings according to your personal preferences.  Scheiderhan’s version is, however, heavily edited with lots of extra symbols that I found confusing.


There is a nice, clear explanation of all of the symbols, which is helpful, but as I used the score I was constantly going back and reminding myself what certain symbols meant. Also with this edition, I would like to have the Facsimile for my own personal comparison.


A third option is published by the International Music Company and edited by Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser. I find this edition very interesting. First off, it has Joachim’s edition written out and then below it a printed version of the autograph.


In many cases this makes the page look messy and I found it hard to add fingerings and notes. It is a well-intentioned edition but loses clarity in the formatting.


The last Edition for this Blog post is edited by Ivan Galamian, also published by International Music Company. This edition is our most popular and best seller for Bach’s “Six Sonatas and Partitas”. The fingerings and bowings are internationally (pardon the pun) acclaimed and recognized as the go-to edition for solid fingerings and bowings. It is clearly printed and well laid out and all the fingerings and bowings are easy to follow and understand.


One of my favourite things about this edition is that it contains the Facsimile of Bach’s manuscript thus allowing for personal comparison. I have personally used this edition as a student and found it my go to edition if I had fingering or bowing problems.


Other somewhat less popular editions are those of Peters, Carl Fischer, Schirmer and Schott.

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